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J Pain. 2013 Nov;14(11):1304-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2013.05.008. Epub 2013 Jul 19.

Impaired recognition of social emotion in patients with complex regional pain syndrome.

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Interdisciplinary Cognitive Science Program, Seoul National University, Seoul, Republic of Korea.


Multiple brain areas involved in nociceptive, autonomic, and social-emotional processing are disproportionally changed in patients with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). Little empirical evidence is available involving social cognitive functioning in patients with chronic pain conditions. We investigated the ability of patients with CRPS to recognize the mental/emotional states of other people. Forty-three patients with CRPS and 30 healthy controls performed the Reading Mind in the Eyes Test, which consists of photos in which human eyes express various emotional and mental states. Neuropsychological tests, including the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test, the stop-signal test, and the reaction time test, were administered to evaluate other cognitive functions. Patients with CRPS were significantly less accurate at recognizing emotional states in other persons, but not on other cognitive tests, compared with control subjects. We found a significant association between the deficit in social-emotion recognition and the affective dimension of pain, whereas this deficit was not related to the sensory dimension of pain. Our findings suggest a disrupted ability to recognize others' mental/emotional states in patients with CRPS.


This article demonstrated a deficit in inferring mental/emotional states of others in patients with CRPS that was related to pain affect. Our study suggests that additional interventions directed toward reducing distressful affective pain may be helpful to restore social cognitive processing in patients with CRPS.


Complex regional pain syndrome; chronic pain; cognitive function; emotion; social cognition; social perception

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